Blogging For Dollars…Or Not – Interview Notes

Today MinnPost published These Minnesota bloggers are making money (but not much) by Justin Piehowski, who interviewed me for his excellent piece.

In addition to myself, Christina Brown who publishes The Northern Cheapskate blog; Melissa Berggren, who publishes Marketing Mama; and Robert Stanke, who blogs at were also featured.

I thought I’d share with you everything that I told Justin for his article:

Tell me a little bit about you, your blog and why you started blogging in the first place?

I currently serve as director of e-Strategy at Tunheim Partners, a strategic communications company based in Bloomington. I have been doing online marketing for the past 15 years. I have two primary blogs. My first blog is the e-Strategy Internet Marketing Blog at, which I began in 2005 as a tool for learning about blogs, bloggers and blogging. This blog focuses on strategic communications, particularly online. My other blog is, a blog I started when online video began to take off as a means of keeping track of the phenomenon and to stay on top of online culture, particularly, what online videos people find interesting.

Tell me why you want to make money online?

First of all, why not? Second, I started including advertising on my sites primarily because I wanted to understand how online advertising works from a professional standpoint. The ROI for my e-Strategy blog, for me, is not in the cash value of advertising sales; it is the value the blog gives me as a professional tool that raises my visibility within my profession, demonstrates my expertise, allows me to increase my understanding of my craft, and, ultimately, generate leads for potential new business for my company. That’s the biggest payoff.

Tell me specifically what techniques, methods, programs you are using to make money online?

I use the Google AdSense program to sell advertising and I am also an affiliate. I alternate the color schemes of the AdSense ads, which rotate throughout the site. The purpose for this is to prevent the visitors from becoming accustomed to one color scheme and, as a result, begin to ignore the ads. I include AdSense ads in my feeds, through my site search, on unused domains I own, and within some of my videos.

While I write about topics that interest me, I am consciously optimizing each post to take advantage of search engine traffic. In that way, I am targeting specific search phrases. This tends to make the ads that display on that page more relevant to the content and thus, more likely to be relevant to the visitor. I occasionally review books or consumer electronics and when I do so, I typically include links to those items to I have also used the LinkShare ( affiliate program and the BlogAds ( advertising network.

What has worked best for you up to this point?

Google AdSense has been far and away the most successful in terms of generating click-through sales.

Any specific techniques, methods, programs that don’t work at all?

I have not had much success with affiliate programs but I haven’t put in a lot of effort to try and make them work. I know people have been successful with affiliate programs but it takes a lot of work and requires a lot of search engine optimization expertise because they typically make most of their money off of search traffic.

Help me out w/ some kind of figure on how much money you are making online

I don’t put a lot of effort into making money from my blogs but what I have made has paid for the technology I’ve invested in them but certainly not the labor. During the past year, I’ve made more than $500 off of Google AdSense ads. That’s fine for me because it’s simply an additional benefit I get from my blogging for which I don’t expend a lot of effort.

I don’t make much from my affiliate ads but when I do make money from them, it is usually as a result of holiday shopping.

How did you find out about the different techniques for making money through blogs? Was there a lot of trial and error?

There is a tremendous amount of information about making money through online advertising on your blog and through affiliate programs and ecommerce, etc. You just need to search for it. Start by reading as much as you can and learning from others and then experiment on your own blog to learn what works and doesn’t work for your particular situation.

Do you have any secrets about making money through blogs that you’re comfortable sharing with the reading public?

Write about what people are searching for. Use Google Insights for Search ( to research what search phrases people are using to find the content you’re creating and use those phrases in your posts. Pay close attention to your analytics to see how people are finding your site, where they’re coming from, what search phrases they are using, and which of those factors drive the most ad sales.

Overall, how do you feel about making money online with your blog? Is it the goldmine you expected? Are you disappointed?

It’s certainly not a goldmine in terms of ad sales but I wasn’t expecting it to be, so, no I’m not disappointed. On the other hand, it has been an absolute goldmine as a professional/career tool. As I mentioned before, it has proved to be a fantastic expert-positioning tool, it has helped me develop personally because I learn a great deal about the topics I write about, and it has lead to countless new business opportunities and much greater exposure for myself and my company than would be otherwise possible.

Do you envision a scenario where you could make a living by blogging? If yes, how. If no, why not?

Yes, I believe I could if I put all my efforts into growing the audience for my blog; optimizing my ad sales and using it as a means of securing speaking and other opportunities, and, once I’ve got a large enough following, using it as a platform to promote books I’d write. It is, however, something I do not care to pursue right now.

What advice do you have for someone who’s just lost their job and looks at blogging as an option for making money?

Spend your time looking for a job rather than starting a blog. If you don’t already have a blog, starting one now as a means to earn a living is going to be awfully tough. Very few people earn a living simply from blogging and those who do have been blogging for a long time.

What’s the biggest obstacle to making money through your blog?

My time and effort.

What am I missing here? What do you feel is something important about making money through blogs that I and the reading public should know?

If you don’t focus on creating content that will be truly valuable to people, you won’t make money from your blog because people won’t care enough to visit and click on your ads or buy stuff from you. Put your head in the mind of your visitors and ask yourself what they would find valuable, both in terms of content and ads.

The e-Strategy Academy covers all aspects of digital marketing including search optimization & marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing & public relations.